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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript


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Former Republican rival Michele Bachmann said: "The Romney/Ryan Republican ticket is our comeback ticket to prosperity and strength." Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said: "Selecting someone like Paul Ryan, who so popular with tea party activists, proves that Mitt Romney is committed to addressing the economic issues." And Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson says Ryan will be a, quote "tremendous asset to Governor Romney."

Joining me now is Republican Senator Ron Johnson, whose tea party bona fides sent him to Washington. Johnson also happens to be from Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, which I guess should lead me to my first question which is, does this change the mix in Wisconsin? Can you see Republicans picking it up? They are now behind when you look at the polls in Wisconsin. Can Paul Ryan pull his own state into the Romney column?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Well, good morning, Candy.

Listen, I think Wisconsin has always been in play. We turned Wisconsin red in November 2010 because of President Obama's policies, because of "Obama-care," people didn't like that thing being jammed through on an entirely partisan basis. People also understand in Wisconsin, we are pretty fiscally conservative here.

People have the common sense notion that government should live within its means. And as Wisconsinites see this president spend our nation into debt, you know, burden our children and grandchildren with $5.3 trillion worth of added debt during this -- during his administration, that scares them.

And, again, so we turned the state red in November 2010. I don't see what has changed, you know, in two years, other than matters have gotten far, far worse. So, no, I think Wisconsin is definitely in play. I think we will deliver 10 electoral votes to the next president, Mitt Romney.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a little bit about the tea party, which has been among the conservatives on that side of the Republican Party pushing for Mitt Romney to nominate someone that is more kind of in their comfort zone. But the criticism has been now, but what does Paul Ryan bring to the ticket when it comes to attracting swing voters?

JOHNSON: Well, what Paul brings to the ticket, as does Mitt Romney, is a seriousness of purpose. I mean, this is an excellent -- it's an outstanding choice, it's a confident choice. It definitely guarantees that this election will be about big issues. It will be about the serious problems facing this nation and two individuals that have serious solutions and real proposals to fix the problems.

Let face it, President Obama, he has proposed four budgets so far, Candy. Not once has he laid out a proposal to save either Social Security or Medicare. His last two budgets were so unserious, they have had three votes in Congress, the total vote tally, 0-610. They have been so unserious, not a member of President Obama's own party have given them their vote.

You know, when I tell people that in Wisconsin, it doesn't get enough play nationally, they are astonished by the fact that we are the largest financial entity in the world and we are operating without a budget.

The Senate, controlled by Democrats, haven't passed a budget in three years. So, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney will bring leadership to the table where this president and the Democrats and the Senate have totally abdicated their responsibility, have been showing no leadership.

CROWLEY: All right. You know, earlier in our 9 a.m. hour, we talked to David Axelrod, I think you can imagine, obviously, that the Obama people are saying this is a radical choice here. This is a ticket that is completely out of step with the mainstream of America. And I want to just show our viewing audience a pilot poll we did on -- sorry, a poll we did on tea party support.

And the question was, do you consider yourself a supporter of the tea party movement? Yes, 25 percent. No, 65 percent. So, the question here is where is the appeal for someone like Paul Ryan, very popular with the tea party, to those voters still trying to make up their minds?

JOHNSON: Candy, what is radical is President Obama's policies. Remember, this is a man who five days before his election said that in five days, we will fundamentally transform United States of America.

I really don't believe most Americans want America to be fundamentally transformed. They want our problems addressed. And again, that's...

CROWLEY: Then how come he said...

JOHNSON: The problem with this president, he is simply not addressing those problems.

CROWLEY: Sure. And yet, he leads -- the latest polls we saw, he was anywhere from 7 to 9 points up. So, doesn't that tell you something about how America now views this race?

JOHNSON: Well, so many of those polls are registered voters versus likely voters. And I really do believe that Americans are hungering for leadership. I think Americans are ready to be treated as adults and be told the truth.

And, again, that is what Governor Romney and Paul Ryan bring to the table here, people that are actually willing to tell Americans the truth, lay out real proposals, be held accountable.

Why hasn't the Senate passed a budget in over three years? It's because Democrats refuse to put their fingerprints on any kind of game plan that the American people can actually take a look at and hold them accountable.

Paul Ryan is willing to do that. Mitt Romney is willing to do that. And I think in the end, they will be rewarded with that seriousness of purpose by the American public because we are looking for leadership. We need to solve these problems. We don't have a whole lot of time, Candy.

CROWLEY: Do you see any risk at all in places like Florida, where there is a huge senior population and elsewhere, where seniors drive the vote, to putting on your ticket and having on a ticket two men who want to change one of the most popular government programs in the country, Medicare?

JOHNSON: Candy, the risk is in not doing anything. I mean, the way we end Medicare as we know it is to do nothing because it will go bankrupt in 12 years. It will actually go bankrupt far sooner than that because ...

CROWLEY: But even if you could make that argument... JOHNSON: ... with President Obama's health care law -- pardon?

CROWLEY: I was going to say even if you can make that argument, is the campaign trail, which tends to be about, you know, bumper stickers and quick campaign speeches, a time to have a real policy debate? I mean, it would be lovely to think that but you know what the campaign trail is like.

JOHNSON: Well, Candy, you know, a lot of that has to do with news media in terms of what you are willing to cover. What Governor Romney has done in picking Paul Ryan is, he is telling the news media, let's have that debate, let's talk about issues.

Let's not pay attention to President Obama's distractions, you know, all the diversions he is putting out there because he simply can't run on his record of $5.3 trillion worth of debt, unemployment above 8 percent for more than 42 months.

Remember President Obama promised to cut the deficit in half in his first term. He hasn't done that. He said woe lower family premiums by $2,500 a year. They are up by almost $2,500. If we can actually talk about the issues, if we can talk about the failed record, the failed policies, the lack of leadership from President Obama, I think that will bode very well for our president, Mitt Romney.

CROWLEY: Senator Johnson, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate your insight.

JOHNSON: Have a great day.


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